This is a critical week for the NFL.
Not on the field, but off the field. Since too many Americans seem to be ignoring the CDC’s recommendation to stay home for Thanksgiving, the holiday is likely to be a super spreader event.
And it could affect the NFL, which has issued new guidelines to try to keep teams from having multiple players testing positive in the near future and having problems fielding a team.
It’s probably time for the NFL to isolate teams in a hotel for the final six weeks of the season, but they seem reluctant to take that move so they are risking having the virus having a major impact on the rest of the season.
–The 8-1 Chiefs face the 6-3 Raiders in the Sunday night feature attraction. The Chiefs-Raiders is an old rivalry although it doesn’t appear to be the same with the Raiders now in Las Vegas. The Raiders handed the Chiefs their only loss of the year but I can’t imagine the Raiders sweeping Patrick Mahomes. In my book, the Chiefs are still favored to repeat and they should stay a game behind the Steelers in the battle for the top seed with a victory.
–The 6-3 Rams vs. the 7-3 Bucs should be a good Monday night matchup. Not so long ago Brady beat the Rams in the Super Bowl although he didn’t play a great game. This year, he’s having trouble hitting deep passes but you have to like Brady over Jared Goff.
–The 7-2 Packers face the 6-3 Colts in the Fox doubleheader game. The key is whether Aaron Rodgers can put enough points on the board to offset the Packers soft run defense that figures to have problems stopping the Colts running game. This should be one of the better matchups of the weekend.
–The Philadelphia-Cleveland game features a 6-3 vs. a 3-5-1 team. The strange thing is that the 3-5-1 Eagles are leading the NFC East and the 6-3 Browns are three games behind the unbeaten Steelers in the AFC North. Not surprising the Browns are favored but they have injury problems so an Eagle win wouldn’t be a major surprise.
–The 7-2 Saints figure to have an edge on the 3-6 Falcons but with Drew Brees sidelined, the Falcons have a chance. The interesting thing is that coach Sean Payton will go with Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston. Now it is Hill’s chance to show he is as good as Payton thinks he is. How Hill plays will be the most interesting aspect of this game.
–Now that Tom Brady is gone, the Patriots have become more of a running team. They pounded Baltimore on the ground last week and figure to do the same against Houston’s rush defense, the worst in the NFL. A win gets the Patriots to 5-5 and gets them in the wild card race after a 3-5 record in the first half of the season.
–When a team has won only one game, good opposing teams don’t tend to take them seriously. That is what happened to the Packers last week when they barely beat the 1-8 Jaguars. Now it is the unbeaten Steeler turn to see if they overlook the Jaguars, especially since they have the Ravens on Thanksgiving Day. Walterfootball.com reports the Steelers are 4-19 against the spread the last 23 times they were favored by eight or more. The Steeler figure to win, but the only question is whether they will sleepwalk through the game and fail to cover the spread.
–The Titans and Ravens are both 6-3 and both need this game. It is one of the better matchups of the week but is a 1 p.m. game so it won’t get a lot of TV coverage. The Ravens couldn’t stop the Patriots running game last week and now they face Derrick Henry while the Ravens need Lamar Jackson to get in a groove.
–The winless Jets, one game ahead of the Jaguars in the race for the top pick, face the 2-7 Chargers so they would seem to have a shot at a victory. But the Chargers have lost several close games and appear to be better than their record, so the odds are against the Jets getting that first victory.